Dear Editor, it has been some time now since I have written an editorial to the paper, and it is because I generally like to take action directly with entities who can assist when I have a community issue to resolve.
This issue I raise, however, has been a longstanding one and perhaps beyond what I can achieve at present because of other factors: the sealing of the Avatiu Valley Rd which has been in a degraded state for the past decade.
Therefore, I have chosen this
platform now to raise this issue in hopes we can be more educated and aware how
our internal systems work, and how we can and should do better as voters and
residents of our community in questioning the status quo.
Of note, I am a landowner,
resident, and teacher of students in a building adjacent to this road.
It is no secret that for all too
long in our political history of the Cook Islands, road sealing has been used
as a means to get political points and voters.
My personal opinion is that
politicians should stay out of the planning of road improvements and let the
Ministry of Infrastructure do their job.
In October 2016, a tender was put
out for a contractor to improve the roads in Takuvaine and Avatiu (Contract No.
C16 – 12). In this plan, several sections of road in Takuvaine/Tutakimoa and
Ruatonga/Avatiu were to be sealed.
In this plan, the majority of the
roads to be sealed were within the constituency of the Prime Minister in
Takuvaine/Tutakimoa, and only two stretches of roads were within
I must also add, they were sealed
using the more expensive process – hot-mix – as opposed to the normal chip seal
we find on most of our roads in the island.
When you look at these roads sealed in the above-mentioned areas today,
they are not the most frequently used roads, and clearly have been sealed to
For example, there is the stretch
of road that runs from the Foodland to the Tutakimoa road, and also the stretch
from the Empire Theatre to the Takuvaine back road.
In Avatiu/Ruatonga, you have the
road from the Ruatonga meeting house to the Ruatonga back road, and the stretch
from the Avatiu Meeting house to the Avatiu netball courts.
I believe the last time the
Avatiu Valley road was sealed may have been more than ten years ago.
Residents in this valley can confirm
that they have endured the roughest of road conditions over the years, the
associated toll on their vehicles, the health risk from the road dust, and the
numerous potholes you have to dodge. It
really gives you that sense of abandonment as a community in this country.
Let us compare and contrast the Valley
road between Avatiu and Takuvaine (which was improved with the most expensive
hotmix seal in 2016): they are
comparable in distance (~ 2km), the number of residential dwellings, and both
The Avatiu Valley road is the
busiest of all valley roads in the Cook Islands.
Besides the residents in this
valley, the islands’ power station is located here. There are heavy machinery businesses and tour
operators also using this road as well with no benefit to the landowners where
most of this road is.
For example, Triad’s large fuel
trucks use this road twice daily to fill generators at the power station, and
daily you find tourists using this road to explore the most popular mountain
track in the Cook Islands.
In comparison to the Takuvaine
Valley Road, and any other road in this country, this road is a major
infrastructure and contributor to the economic development of the Cook Islands.
Yet, this road has sat in a poor
state of despair for many years with superficial fixes now and then when
residents start rabble rousing to ICI.
The most recent water project
completed in 2020 has also delayed the sealing of this road. It has been two years now after project
completion, and I have made several phone calls to ICI since 2021 to enquire
about the sealing of our roads due to health risks of dust to residents and
students I teach in the building adjacent to this 2-km road.
My latest phone call was with the HOM, and I
was told that the people in charge of the sealing project would get back to
me. To this day, I have not heard back
The only good news I can see for
Avatiu residents is that in this election year, we may finally see some action
taken to have our road properly sealed.
Given the importance of RAPPA in
the upcoming elections for Government to retain the seat, it may even be of the
hotmix version. I ask our people living
not only in this constituency, but in every island in the Cook Islands, to not
be jaded by the utilization of projects and road sealing and tree cutting and
hedge trimming etc. to buy your vote in an election year. Look beyond this to the quality of your candidates
as we need good people in government on both sides. We ask our people to walk the talk all the
time, and so it may be that I put my hand up again for the next election so we
can see some meaningful change to the way our nation is governed.
Thank you for the opportunity to
respond to the matters raised in Dr Teina Rongo’s letter.
Infrastructure Cook Islands
welcomes the opportunity to clarify relevant aspects of the methodology applied
by us in implementing infrastructure projects in all our islands.
Methodologies that embrace and
comply with established government policies.
Dr Rongo notes potential concerns
regarding political influence on prioritising infrastructure projects and the
requirement of different road surface finishes on some of our more recently
ICI’s methodology in determining
the prioritising of repairs, maintenance and reconstruction or improvement of
its assets is based on studies and tests undertaken by local and international engineers
This is then developed into a
forward works plan which, in turn is directly linked to the National
Infrastructure Investment Plan (NIIP).
As with all other government
national policy documents, the NIIP is finally approved by Cabinet following
comprehensive consultations with all stakeholders including the private sector.
ICI also applies due
consideration to the required maintenance and replacement of the assets of
other service providers such as TAU, Vodafone and To Tatou Vai (TTV) and
whether their requirements will affect ICI’s assets.
Coordination efforts to ensure
each infrastructure manager and/or service provider’s assets necessary upgrades
do not cause damage to each other’s installed infrastructure are also in place
through a coordination group of asset managers from relevant agencies.
ICI provides secretariat services.
From time to time, such
coordination efforts have required the delayed implementation and
reprioritisation of our road work plans to allow other infrastructure managers
to complete their necessary works prior to our work being undertaken.
This is the case with Avatiu
Infrastructure Cook Islands is
scheduled to undertake this work within this financial year.
It was determined that the water
main would need replacing and the alignment is within the road corridor along
The road works contract has
already been awarded and is anticipated to start within the next two weeks.
The road surface from the intersection
on the backroad to the power plant will be hot mix having regard to the heavy
vehicles travelling along that stretch of road, with the remaining section of
road surface being chip seal.
The works will also include
roadside drainage to enhance the life expectancy of the road.
We acknowledge the accuracy of Mr
Rongo’s comments regarding the cost of chip seal surfacing being cheaper than
We also note that hot mix has a
longer design life and require less maintenance thus rendering the cost vs
value more favourable.
As per government’s original
stated policy for roads, it is Infrastructure Cook Islands aim for the main
ring road around Rarotonga to have a hot mix surface due to its ability to
withstand the increased number of vehicles on the roads.
Hot mix will also be applied to
other parts of the road network as required and as provided through our budget
With respect to the Takuvaine roads, whilst I
wasn’t at ICI at the time, I understand that in 2015 when planning started for
the upgrading of those roads, the rationale used at the time was that was hot
mix lasts much longer than chip seal and presented better cost benefit
value. As we can see those roads are in
excellent condition after seven years.
Should Dr Rongo or others require
additional information, we, in ICI are available to provide what we can either
through meetings or via email.